Serena Williams said that she had not expected to beat her sister Venus in yesterday's women's final but she clearly arrived prepared for all eventualities. When the 11-times Grand Slam champion came into her post-match press conference she was wearing a T-shirt with the words "Are you looking at my titles?" emblazoned across her ample bosom.
Although she was playing one of the all-time Wimbledon greats, there was an assurance about Serena's game from the start and after an hour and 26 minutes the younger sister had claimed her third All England Club crown, winning 7-6 6-2. The title took her four clear of her sister's tally, and was her third here.
Six of Serena's Grand Slam final victories have been at the expense of her sister – who has denied her only twice – including all three at Wimbledon. Just as in her previous wins here, Serena seemed to benefit from her sister's injury problems. While both players denied that Venus' injured left knee had contributed to her defeat, she appeared to be moving with difficulty in the latter stages and was striking the ball without her customary power.
The knee was so heavily bandaged that Venus' leg looked like a clumsily lagged water pipe. Although it did not seem to have caused her undue trouble in her earlier matches, nobody else pulls her around the court like her sister. All the time her serve held good Venus stayed in the contest, but in the latter stages of the second set she appeared to be in some discomfort.
Serena has served superbly over the last fortnight and on this occasion dropped only eight out of 54 points on her serve. Venus, nevertheless, ran her close in the first set, which became a serving masterclass, Serena winning 21 out of 22 points on first serve and Venus 21 out of 25. Venus forced her only break points of the match in the eighth game, only for Serena to serve her way out of trouble.
When it went to the tie-break Serena took over. A crunching return of serve set up her first mini-break on the fourth point and her relentless ground strokes forced the second as Venus finished on her knees after a wrong-footing forehand winner. Serena won the tie-break in style on her first set point, a beautifully judged backhand lob landing just inside the baseline. It ended Venus' run of 34 winning sets in succession here, dating back to the third round two years ago.
Venus clung on in the second set until she served at 2-3, when two lame backhands into the net and a double fault left her looking a beaten woman. She did not win another game, though Serena seemed almost reluctant to close out victory when she wasted her first three match points with a series of poor strokes. On the fourth, however, Venus put a backhand in the net, after which Serena sank briefly to her knees in celebration before running to the net to give her sister a consoling hug.
Had it been hard beating her own sister? "It definitely wasn't easy. First of all, she's a great player, especially on this surface, especially out there on that court. Also she's my sister, someone that I want to see win and do well at all times.
"This is one of the few times I didn't expect to come out with the win. I felt like I had nothing to lose. I defended every point that I had from last year. I felt like all I had to do is go out there and do my best, you know, just stay even, because she's such a good player. When I won that first set, I was like, 'Wow, this is great. No matter what, I'm a set away.' So I was just trying to relax."
Despite her victory, Serena will remain world No 2 behind Dinara Safina, who took only one game off Venus in the semi-finals and has lost all three of her Slam finals. Serena, who now holds three of the four Grand Slam titles, could not resist a dig at the rankings system. "My motivation is maybe just to win another Grand Slam and stay No 2, I guess," she said through laughter. "I see myself as No 2. That's where I am. I think Dinara did a great job to get to No 1. She won Rome and Madrid."
Serena is only the second player in the Open era – after her sister – to win the Wimbledon title having been match point down earlier in the tournament. She showed all her fighting spirit in coming back to beat Elena Dementieva in a thrilling semi-final. "The match is never over until you shake the opponent's hand," she said yesterday as she reflected on that moment. "It's like you never give up and you always keep fighting. It's just a good lesson for life, not just in sport."